And THEN the Judgment
Vol: 110 Issue: 23 Tuesday, November 23, 2010
“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, whether it be good or bad.” (2nd Corinthians 5:10)
The Bible says that it is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment. Every human being that ever lived will ultimately be judged according to his works.
Every human being — including saved Christians.
The Bible identifies two separate seats of judgment. The first is the judgment seat of Christ, also called the “Bema Seat.”
“Bema” is the Greek word translated as “judgment seat” but the phrase loses much of its meaning in translation. It means a rostrom or a tribunal, specifically one with one foot on the throne, or one with absolute authority.
In Paul’s day, the Greek Olympic games had been part of Greek society for at least six hundred years.
The ancient Olympics began as a foot race between female candidates for the job of priestess to the goddens Hera and continued in some form every four years thereafter until they were suppressed by Emperor Theodocius II of Rome in the early third century AD.
By Paul’s day, the Olympics had developed into a system, of which the Bema Seat was the most important. The Bema Seat was the place where the judges sat directly in line with the finish line.
The job of the Bema judge was not to declare a winner, but rather, to record the order in which each runner finished his race. The first one to cross the line was awarded a gold medal, next silver, next bronze, etc., but the race was not over until the last competitor crossed the finish line.
That is why Paul used the word “bema” to describe this particular judgment seat. To be judged at the Bema Seat signifies having successfully completed the race – it is also called “believer’s judgment.”
The second judgment is the Great White Throne judgment. This judgment takes place at the conclusion of the thousand-year Millennial Kingdom.
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Revelation 20:12)
Notice that believers stand before Christ. At the Great White Throne they stand before God. This doesn’t mean that – Christ isn’t God, but the word ‘Christ’ (Christos) means Messiah, or Redeemer.
Those that stand before the Great White Throne will NOT stand before the Redeemer to be judged according to their works. That is the Bema Seat judgment. At the Great White Throne, they will stand before the Righteous Judge to be condemned according to their choice.
Let me use a real, living example of the famously atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of “God is NOT Great.” As a sinner, Christopher Hitchens is no worse than I am. His works are no more terrible than mine. In short, he is no more deserving of hell than I am.
Hitchens is now dying of esophageal cancer and has explicitly rejected the prayers of the faithful for either his healing or his salvation. Hitchens says that he refuses to bend his knee now because he doesn’t want to appear a hypocrite.
Instead, Hitchens says, if there is a God and a judgment, he prefers to be judged according to his own merits. It is his choice to make. When he stands before the Great White Throne, his every action and thought and deed, as recorded in the books, will be examined and judged.
But he will be condemned according to but one criteria.
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)
I chose to be judged at the Bema Seat when I accepted my sinful state and trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior. The Bema Seat judgment will be no less horrific than that of the Great White Throne.
Let me repeat myself for emphasis: The Bema Seat judgment will be no less horrific than that of the Great White Throne. Like Christopher Hitchens at the Great White Throne; Christians will be “judged according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2nd Corinthians 5:10)
The Bema Seat is not going to be some picnic – the Apostle Paul calls it ‘a terror.’
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” (2nd Corinthians 5:11)
But the Bema Seat judgment, although it IS a judgment for works, judges how you ran the race, not whether you finished it. By definition, if you are standing before the Bema Seat, you finished the race.
The purpose of the Bema Seat is to determine what rewards you have earned. If you are there, it is because your name IS found in the Book of Life.
The Book of Life is the ticket into heaven. Anyone whose name is not in there will join the antichrist and false prophet in the Lake of Fire. But the Book of Life is but one of four books identified in Scripture that record the details of our existence.
What are the other books?
There is The Book of Births:
“Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy Book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalms 139:16)
The Book of Tears:
“Thou tellest my wanderings: put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book?”
The Book of Tears records our pain and disappointments and sadness — Who we trusted and how we dealt with the trials and tribulations of this life.
“In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. . . . For Thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” (Psalms 56:10-11,13)
The Book of Remembrance:
“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His Name. And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Malachi 3:16-17)
The Book of Remembrances is where God records that which sometimes man forgets. The Scriptures promise that:
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
And finally, the Big One: The Book of Life:
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” (Revelation 3:5)
“And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)
Understanding the difference between the judgments and the Books that determine which judgment we face makes it impossible to mount a cogent argument against the doctrine of eternal security, or what is often derided as “OSAS”.
Every person who ever lived is recorded in all four Books, including the Book of Life. Revelation 3:5 says that he that overcomes will be clothed in white rainment and that Jesus will not blot his name out of the Book of Life.
Does that mean a saved person’s name can be blotted out if they fail to ‘overcome’? No. It means exactly the opposite. How does a believer ‘overcome the world?’ Obviously, he can’t, or there would be no need for a Savior to do it for him.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Ye are of God, little children, and HAVE overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1st John 4:4)
Your name is recorded in the Book of Births, the Book of Tears, and the Book of Remembrances and the Book of Life. So, too is the name, Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is still alive. He still has an opportunity to repent and trust Jesus.
That opportunity will remain with him until he draws his last breath. On that day, if he remains defiant, THEN will Jesus blot his name out of the Book of Life.
THAT is what John meant when he wrote that the Great White Throne was the second death. The first death occurs when one dies in his sins and his name is blotted out of the Book of Life.
The second death occurs at the second resurrection at the Great White Throne.
You cannot blot your own name out of the Book of Life by your sins. It is blotted out by Jesus by your final rejection of salvation at the first death.
If it is blotted out by your sins, rather than your rejection of salvation, then what does it mean when it says we will be judged for what was done in the body, both good and bad?
Otherwise, the first death and the second death are meaningless symbols, since death is a fairly identifiable condition — it means, ‘not alive’.
If you are alive now, your name is in the Book of Life — and will remain there until you are dead and its is too late to trust Christ. The actual equation isn’t “once saved, always saved.” It more accurately undersood as “saved once and always”.
The decision to blot out your name from the Book of Life is not made based on your sins in this life. Your name remains in the Book of Life until you die in your sins. And if you are saved, you can’t.
Don’t let the enemy steal away your victory. It came at too high a price.