Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Judgment Seat of Christ

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Judgment Seat of Christ

The Judgment Seat of Christ

           Our lives are composed of thousands of links connected by thousands of touches from the lives of others over our lifetimes.  Those touches of interaction shape us into the people we become.  Sometimes those touches are long spans of time like parents with children and children with parents.  Sometimes those touches encourage us, motivate us, challenge us, and help us to love life and enjoy it.  Sometimes those touches by others hurt us, discourage us, drag us down, and make us feel worthless.  Sometimes our touches upon others lives bring more pain than help.  In whatever manner we live our lives, we are going to be touching thousands of other lives to various degrees every day.  Those touches must be careful touches.  Those touches should be considerate touches.  God did not save us to be cannon balls crashing through the lives of everyone around us doing more destruction than construction.   

Truly good intentions will always be truly careful intentions. 

8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done {outcomes}, whether it be good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men {to be ‘born again’ and to live carefully for Christ}; but we {all} are made manifest unto God {no act, thought, or motive is hidden from the sight and knowledge of us by God}; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences” (II Corinthians 5:8-11).

Augustus Strong said, “Holiness is the inherent opposition of God to all that is sinful.”  Yet, in God’s opposition to all that is sinful, there is a gentleness and compassion about His operations of grace that seeks to lovingly draw His opposition to His side.  In God’s opposition to all that is sinful, there is no compromise or bending of His will in complacency to sin or sinners.  If you are living today, you have experienced the firmness of His gentleness in His thousands of thousands of touches upon your life.  Every one of His touches were His gentle nudges upon your freewill to make a choice that would be best for you and those you touch with your life.  If sinners are not sensitive to God’s touches, we are like a billiard ball that never ends up in the hole God intends, but just haphazardly crashing into every other ball on that table.

All the touches in all the links of links that make up the chain that we become must be somehow controlled by our own spirits or the hurtful and painful touches from others will shape us into cynical critics who become the kind of people that hurt, destroy, and discourage those we touch with our words and lives.  The touches of God’s Spirit upon our lives are intent upon shaping us into the kind of links that join to the links of other’s lives with very positive touches that are encouraging, uplifting, and the guiding lights of thousands of careful, gentle touches.  The touch of God’s Spirit upon our lives is intended to shape us in such a manner that we can be used of Him to touch the lives of others to bring them to walk with us as we walk with Him.  The Bible calls this MINISTRY. 

Ministry involves Biblical knowledge, spiritual wisdom, gentleness, kindnesses, and spiritual integrity that can only be produced through a very intimate relationship with God.  Biblical knowledge is knowing what to say.  Biblical wisdom is knowing when to say it and with what voice or mannerism should be connected to saying it.  Biblical wisdom controls Biblical knowledge lest truth comes forth with the force of water out of a fire hose just knocking everyone off their feet pushing them away from us.  These qualities of Biblical knowledge, spiritual wisdom, gentleness, kindnesses, and spiritual integrity are qualities of character that must be carefully and meticulously cultivated through spiritual growth.  If we are careless, these qualities will not be fully developed and our touches on the lives of those that cross our paths will be worthless, or worst, maybe hurtful.  

The point of saying all this is the preface to whether the Judgment Seat of Christ can be something we look to with joyous anticipation or with great trepidation.  When the qualities of Biblical knowledge, spiritual wisdom, gentleness, kindnesses, and spiritual integrity are NOT the cultivated qualities of our characters, the Judgment Seat of Christ will not be a pleasant experience for any believer.  If the qualities of Biblical knowledge, spiritual wisdom, gentleness, kindnesses, and spiritual integrity are NOT the cultivated qualities of our characters the judgment of our works done in the flesh will end up a pile of ashes of shame at our feet.  

           The Judgment Seat of Christ is also called the Bema Seat.  The Judgment Seat of Christ is the place where the Church Age believer-priest’s works are judged (not their sins) by their High Priest Jesus Christ.  The Judgement Seat takes place in Heaven.  The time is after the resurrection/glorification of those “in Christ” called the Rapture, which begins the “judgment of the nations” on earth called the seven-year tribulation.  The Judgment Seat of Christ is payday for the faithful works of faithful believer-priests.  It would be wise to predetermine what those works are supposed to be according to the job description given us by our Great High Priest because it defines faithfulness in the work expected from us by Him.  

           As a pastor, one of my concerns about standing before my Great High Priest and having my works judged by Jesus is how well the congregations given me to lead were perfected for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).  The pastor will be held accountable for teaching the whole counsel of God AND for the manner by which God’s Word is presented to the hearer’s ears (Hebrews 13:17).  He will not be responsible for anyone’s decisions to obey the truth taught unless some aspect of a carnal personality purposely injured someone spiritually causing a person to reject of the truths taught.  Even if the pastor had a bad spirit and still taught the truth accurately, the pastor’s bad spirit does not lessen any believer’s responsibility to learn and obey the truth taught (remember Jonah).  I would rather someone go to Hell angry with me for some truth or warning I have given than for him to go Hell never having heard me say anything.  Being silent about truth is the most subtle form of self-deception when it comes to faithfulness. 

           As the new human sovereign over the creation of God, Jesus’s righteous judgment of the earth, and all that is of the earth, is part of His restored redemption of dominion.  However, Jesus is the Name given the eternal Son of God in His union with humanity in the incarnation.  Therefore, Jesus will judge with both human and divine knowledge that goes far beyond the testimony of human understanding (Isaiah 6:3).  When the Word of God declares “with righteousness shall he judge” (Isaiah 6:4), there is a depth of divine understanding of the events of human interactions that we cannot now even begin to comprehend. 

1And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse {the promised incarnation of JEHOVAH in Messiah}, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2And the spirit of the LORD {JEHOVAH; omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence} shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isaiah 6:1-4).

           Superficial teaching of theology and superficial teaching of the Gospel has created a mass of professing Christians with no spiritual discernment and no fear of God.  They have rightly been taught that every sin has been already judged in the body of Jesus Christ and the penalty of that sin has already been paid.  However, they have NEVER been taught that they will be judged for their “works” (the way they used their new life in ministry) after they were “born again” (the way they used their new life in ministry). The judgment of the “born again” believers “works” is accountability for the Blood investment Christ made to redeem your wretched soul from the bondage of death and Hell.  Therefore, it is “your reasonable service” (works, Romans 12:1) to present your life to Jesus to live through you for the rest of your time in this body of flesh.  “Reasonable service” means that letting Christ live His life through your life is expected of you.  This is the basis of the Judgment Seat of Christ and what defines the difference between “rewards” and standing in a pile of ashes of burnt “down” dead works.  The point is that all that you have built-up on the foundation of your salvation through ministry will be burned down to ashes if what you have built up is built in your own power or for your own glory.  

           The Judgment Seat of Christ is the time when Christ rewards faithful believers for faithful works of ministry when put to the test of fire coming from the evaluation of those “works” by Jesus Christ.  

 14 If any man’s work {of ministry} abide {is not consumed by the fire of righteous judgment because the work was done according to God’s commands in truth; righteously} which he hath built thereupon {built up; upon the foundation of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone; I Corinthians 3:10}, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned {burned down to ashes; is consumed by the fire of judgment because it was done carnally or unrighteously outside of the parameters of truth or contrary to the commands of Christ}, he shall suffer loss {of reward}: but he himself shall be saved {this judgment has nothing to do with his salvation}; yet so as by fire” (I Corinthians 3:14-15).  

Many Christians have some very strange notions about what will earn them rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Many Christians think if they don’t drink, chew, or go with girls that do, God will reward them for the lives they lived.  Scripture teaches us in many places that what constitutes earned rewards is the fruit of souls won to Christ and of disciples (followers) made for Christ.  Holy living and separation are merely a part of what constitutes “abiding” in Christ in order to release the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit of God upon our “work of the ministry” (even God cannot bless what you do not do).

           Rewards for faithful service are spoken of often in the Word of God.  Christ gives us considerable detail regarding rewards for the faithful in the parable of the “talents” in Matthew 25:14-30 (He expects “fruit’).  Uniquely, the context takes on both the sense of encouragement and warning.  The Apostle Paul uses similar language in II Corinthians 5:1-11 as he speaks about the ‘judgment seat of Christ,” concluding with the statement in verse 11; “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (dealing with the carnal and selfish lifestyles of the Corinthians) 

God inspires the use of metaphors relating to the ancient Greek Olympic games/contests to refer to the spiritual rewards from the Lord Jesus at the Bema/Judgment Seat of the “King of kings and LORD of lords” awarded to His faithful servants at the beginning of the Kingdom Age.  One of those uses is in II Timothy 2:1-7 and another is in I Corinthians 9:24-27.  If we look at all these texts inductively, we see that these “crowns,” or rewards for faithful service, will determine the prominence of the positions of Church Age believers as “kings and priests” during the Kingdom Age.  Telling professing believers to be “faithful” without defining faithfulness is being unfaithful.

1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace {supernatural enabling} that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 5 And if a man also strive {athleo; ath-leh'-o; compete} for masteries {lit., the victor’s crown}, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully {legitimately or according to the rules}. 6 The husbandman {God; John 15:1) that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits {the firstfruits of glory belong to God}. 7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding {spiritual comprehension} in all things” (II Timothy 2:1-7).

           In the metaphor of II Timothy 2:5, the Word of God tells us essentially that a person might appear to have won a victory but will yet not be “crowned” as a Victor if that person does not compete according to the exact specifications regarding the competition that is entered.  The critical statement defining the specifications for being “crowned” is actually found in II Timothy2:1 in the phrase; “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”  

Therefore, the believer’s ministry that will bring spiritual reward MUST be done within the confines of a strict interpretation and application of what the Word of God teaches regarding the doctrine of Grace (the supernatural enabling of the believer who has yielded his will to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God; Romans 6:11-13).  Because there is such errant teaching regarding the doctrine of Grace by many from both the Legalists and the Liberals within professing Christianity, the vast majority of professing believers will be found looking for Crowns at the Bema Seat, but will instead find themselves in shame before the Lord.  

           Sadly, many Christians have lived their Christian lives in the power of the flesh (Legalism).  They think they have been faithful, and they think that they will receive rewards at the Bema seat.  Instead, they will discover that they have spent their lives building up a pile of kindling for the Judgment Seat.  The kindling of “wood, hay, and stubble,” from ministries lived in the power of the flesh, will bring much shame at the Bema Seat.  Carnality is more than living sinfully and worldly.  Carnality exists anytime we live in the power of the flesh. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 50 years.

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