Jan 6, 2010

Christians Before the Judgment Seat of Christ

Dave HuntBy Dave Hunt

Question: I recall instances when TBC (The Berean Call) has said that everyone, even Christians, will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Yet, Jesus, the Lord, the Living Word, in John 5:24 says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath [past tense] everlasting life, and shall not [future tense] come into condemnation [judgment]; but is [already] passed from death unto life."

It seems we are told by God that Christians will not come into any judgment whatsoever; they have already, in spirit, passed from death to life, as Jesus was judged as being fully guilty for all their sins. Yet, despite John 5:24 supporting that position, TBC insists upon the idea that everyone, even Christians will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to answer for their every word and deed in the flesh.

Response: The fact that all believers must stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ is something affirmed more than once in Scripture (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10). The act of denying this certainty looks to be generated by the assumption that the "Judgment Seat of Christ" judgment is synonymous with the "condemnation" of John 5:24. It is a mistake to assume that every usage of "judgment" throughout Scripture is only speaking of the Judgment of unbelievers. Context is always critical in meaning. We need not follow the example of others such as Jehovah's Witnesses who insist that every usage of a word must therefore mean exactly the same thing regardless of context.

There is more than one type of "judgment" spoken of in Scripture and we are to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tm 2:15). What is in view in John 5 is "everlasting life" (John 5:24a, the eternal bliss of the believer), and "condemnation" (John 5:24b, the eternal punishment of the lost). The "condemnation" of John 5:24 is a judgment the believer will never face. This is borne out by verses 27-29 in which the resurrected dead (both saved and lost) are either welcomed to the resurrection of eternal life or "condemned" into the "resurrection of damnation" (v. 29). Certainly this is a "judgment," but one far different than the judgment by the Lord Jesus concerning the believer.

The Lord repeatedly warns of the penalty faced by believers at the judgment seat of Christ. "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor 3:13-15).

Related Links

 What does the Bible say about when God will judge us? - GotQuestions.org
 The Judgment Seat of Christ - Lambert Dolphin
 What is the Great White Throne Judgment? - GotQuestions.org
 Your Eternal Reward: Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ - Erwin W. Lutzer (Book)
 What the Bible Says About Heaven and Eternity - Thomas Ice (Book)