Bema Seat - What Is It and When Is It?
The concept of the Bema Seat comes from the ancient Olympics, where a judge would sit on the Bema Seat at the finish line. The judge's purpose was to determine what position the runners came in-first, second, and so on-and then to give out the appropriate rewards. That is the imagery behind what is known as the Bema Seat.
Also known as the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema Seat is described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." Your gold, silver, and costly stones are works done for the glory of God, with the right motive, and in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is some debate as to the exact timing of the Bema Seat. Some understand it to occur at the moment of death for each believer. Others believe the Bema Seat to occur during the end times, with all believers being judged at that time. It does not truly matter when the Bema Seat occurs. It is far more important that we be prepared for the Bema Seat.
Bema Seat - What It Isn't
The Bema Seat judgment does not determine salvation. Rather, it is when believers must give an account of their lives to Christ. It is very important to not confuse the Bema Seat with the Great White Throne judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 describe this judgment, "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." The Great White Throne is where those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are judged and condemned.
In contrast, the Bema Seat is for believers whose salvation has already been secured by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). We should not focus on the Bema Seat as Christ judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us according to our lives. Yes, we will surely have to give an account of our lives. Romans 14:10-12 explains, "You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God." Part of this judgment is answering for the sins we committed. At the same time, I do not think judgment is going to be the focus of the Bema Seat.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul gives the Corinthian church an illustration of the Bema Seat, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." Paul is teaching us 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.
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