The Judgment Seat of Christ: For Believers

by Gordon Henry Hayhoe (1911-2003)

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." 2 Cor. 5:10.

Let us look at what God has told us about the judgment scat of Christ as brought before us in His Word regarding believers. We know that those who do not know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and who die in their sins, will have to stand before Him too, but at a different time and in an entirely different way. They will meet Him as the Judge, at the "great white throne" to be judged for their sins, and since their names are not written in the book of life they will be cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11-15).

For the believer the judgment seat of Christ has an entirely different character. It is for manifestation and reward. It is the manifestation of "the things done in the body", that we might know the Lord's appraisal of our lives, either for loss or reward. We will stand before the One who bore the judgment of our sins on the cross of Calvary, knowing that He Himself is our righteousness. (2 Cor. 5:21). Our sins will not be remembered as against us, but we will never know until then how great was our debt of sin. We often have too small an appreciation of what a great load of sins He bore for us in those dark hours of Calvary. But all must be brought into the light, as the Lord Jesus said, (Luke 8:17), and this will deepen our notes of praise. A friend might offer to pay your debts, but you may not realize the total till you add up the "paid in full" receipts, so our verse says "the things done in his body...whether it be good or bad." All will be manifested then.

We will also trace His grace and patience with us through our whole life, as He shows us how in our unsaved days, we so often despised His free offer of salvation, yet He continued to seek us until He found us, and then laid us on His shoulders rejoicing (Luke 15:4,5). Would there not be a loss if He did not let us see, in His presence, all that we were, as well as His matchless grace and goodness that led us to repentance?

Now there was no good in our lives before we were saved, for the Bible says, "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Rom. 8:8. But when God saved us He gave us a new life, the very life of Christ. As someone has said; He then began the credit side of the record of our lives, and now He takes notice of the things done for Him. Even a

cup of cold water given in His Name, or a thought upon His Name, or even our confidence in Him, will be manifested and rewarded in that day. Indeed the daily things of life, if done as unto the Lord, will be rewarded. (Col. 3:23,24).

Yet there has been failure and sin in our lives since we were saved, and even though they were all borne by the Lord Jesus at Calvary, yet they must be manifested. It is not a question of charging them to us, for the one offering of the Lord Jesus has perfected the believer forever as to his standing before God, (Heb. 10:14), so we read in 1 John 4:17, "that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world."

Why then are the "bad" things mentioned in 2 Cor. 5:10? As mentioned before, it will not only reveal the riches of His grace in saving us, but we also think of His long suffering patience with us even as believers. How often we have followed afar off like Peter, and He has brought us back. "He restoreth my soul." Psa. 23:3. We may have just wasted our lives, or part of them, living to please ourselves when we should have lived, not unto ourselves but unto Him who died for us and rose again (2 Cor. 5:14,15). All this will be manifested, for only what has been done for Him in obedience to His Word will be rewarded. The rest will all be loss, as we learn from 1 Cor. 3:8-15. We will notice these verses in particular later, but they show us very clearly that there is either loss or reward as the result of the manifestation. Some things may come out beforehand, but all will most surely be brought to light then. We learn from 1 Cor. 3:15 that the one whose bad works are burned up, is nevertheless himself saved, for it is the work of Christ alone that puts away our sins and fits us for heaven, and not our own works. It is, however, possible to have a saved soul but a lost life. Surely as we think of the judgment seat of Christ and the manifestation of our lives, and when we consider His great love to us, we are constrained to live unto Him!

Now these verses we have just considered speak of "the things done in the body" giving us the general thought of our whole life. Let us turn to 1 Cor. 3:8-15 and we will notice that this passage deals particularly with our service for the Lord. Think of these wonderful words in verse 9, "for we are labourers together with God", and then more wonderful still that the Lord Jesus, having washed away all our sins in His precious blood, says that there will be a reward for our labor for Him, if it is according to His will (verse 8).

The Apostle goes on to tell that there is a spiritual building being constructed in which we have the privilege of laboring. Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God, was used to lay the foundation, for those inspired epistles laid the foundation of Christianity. Using the Holy Scriptures—the Word of God—as the foundation of our service to the Lord, we have the privilege of laboring for Him. But let us be careful that we follow God's plan in our service, for if we do not, we may build in "wood, hay and stubble". We may be so anxious to see results that we depart from the truth of God in our service, or mix truth and error together. Just as in a natural building, the inspector checks whether the work is according to the plans, so there will be a manifestation of our service and labor at the judgment seat of Christ. Is it "gold, silver, precious stones" or is it "wood, hay, and stubble"? "The day shall declare it." verses 12, 13.

The fire—the judgment of the One whose eyes are as a flame of fire—who sees everything—(Rev. 1:14) will make our work manifest. "If any man's work abide which he hath 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. 3:14,15. It is clear from this that it is not the person—the servant—who is being judged, but his work. A believer may "suffer loss" then. Time, energy, ability and possessions could be used for the Lord, but it is all loss if not used for Him in a way that is according to the Word. "If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully." 2 Tim. 2:5. If what He has given us is used for Him in obedience, there will be a reward, as our verse tells us. Of course the reward is not to be our motive, For it is His love that constrains us to live unto Him, but it will be His joy to give rewards. We will have the privilege of laying 'them at His feet and giving Him all the glory. (Rev. 4:10). The Scripture speaks of the faithful shepherd receiving "a crown of glory that fadeth not away." 1 Peter 5:4. Paul said, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 2 Cor. 4:17. How wonderful to think that He who once wore the crown of thorns for us, should so value our feeble efforts as to give a crown for pleasing Him! All will come out at the judgment seat of Christ.

Now in 1 Cor. 4:1-5 we find a third aspect of the judgment seat of Christ. Here we find that God manifests the counsels of the heart. He knows not only what we do, but why we do it. He searches our hearts. We do not know our own hearts, and much less the hearts and motives of others. We are not to judge things merely as they appear in "man's day" nor pass an appraisal on our own lives, but all will be manifested in that day. If we had a wrong motive and did things for the eyes of others and not really for the Lord, it will all come out then, for "nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid that shall not be known." Luke 8:17.

The hymn writer said:

"Deeds of merit as we thought them
He will show us were but sin,

Little things though long forgotten
He will show were done for Him."

There is then a bright side to this manifestation. Perhaps we tried to do something out of love for the Lord Jesus, and we did not do it just as we should or planned. Perhaps others criticized, but the Lord knew our hearts and He will reward the desire. Like the little girl who tried to help her mother, but she dropped a valuable piece of china and it was broken. Her mother could not reward the action, but she lovingly rewards the child's desire to please her. So here we read, "and then shall every man have praise of God." We surely should praise Him, but is it not wonderful that He should praise us?

Now we have considered the aspect of our whole life passing into review, our service to the Lord, and also the motives that govern our actions. Now if we look at Rom. 14 we find another aspect of this manifestation. It says in verse 10, "Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." It is necessary for us to consider how our actions affect others, especially the children of God, "for none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself" verse 7. When we think of standing there in the presence of the Lord Jesus as He reviews our lives, we will see others with whom we are brought into contact and we will know how our actions affected them. Were we a help or a hindrance? Did we act thoughtlessly and carelessly, or did we try to encourage and help them?

Now the question is often asked as to whether the manifestation will be a public thing. Will everyone see and know all about us? Scripture does not answer this directly but I believe we will all be there as the trophies of grace. We know now of the failure of King David as a believer, and of Peter who denied his Lord. We will meet the man who had the legion of devils before he was saved, and Mary Magdalene who had seven devils before the Lord saved her, and many others. But we will not be occupied with this. Because of the old nature in us, and the pride of our natural hearts, we are very concerned what others think of us now, but then all that will concern us will be, What does the Lord Jesus, who died for me, think of my life? Is it acceptable to Him? How good for us to think of this now, for as Paul said, "we are made manifest unto God" 2 Cor. 5:11. He knows now, and He will show us there!" Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him." 2 Cor. 5:9. Our lives as believers, are like a gift we are preparing for someone we love, and when the package is opened we are waiting to hear his or her remarks, for we are very anxious to hear our loved one's approval. How wonderful it will be, if in any measure we hear the Lord Jesus say, "Well done." Matt. 25:23. Surely we want to please Him most of all.

Another question that is asked is, How will we feel? The Scripture speaks of being ashamed (1 John 2:28) and also of suffering loss (1 Cor. 3:15). It is hard for us to think of being ashamed and of suffering loss now, without thinking of wounded pride and of what others will say. But let us think of it this way. How did the Lord Jesus feel about how I lived today? I believe that at the judgment seat of Christ I will know how He felt, and I will feel the same—exactly as He feels. We will, however, be glad to see everything burned up that did not have His approval, and only what was truly for Him abiding. Every act in our lives then has present and eternal consequences. We may lose the joy of the Lord in our souls, and even come under His government in the present, and we can never regain what we have lost in eternity. "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Gal. 6:8.

The rewards given have to do especially with the kingdom reign of the Lord Jesus—the millennium. The Scripture speaks of the "crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4), the "crown of life" (James 1:12, Rev. 2:10) the "crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:8) and "the crown of rejoicing" (1 Thess. 2:19). It also speaks of our position in the kingdom according to faithfulness—"be thou over five cities" and "be thou over ten cities" Luke 19:17,19. Again, "if we suffer we shall also reign with Him." 2 Tim. 2:12. While there is no "reigning" in the eternal state, the position is eternal (Rev. 22:5) and the rewards are eternal (2 Cor. 4:17, Gal. 6:8, 1 John 2:17). The bride appears in the eternal state with all the beauty of the wedding day, for which she had made herself ready in a practical way, "for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints." Rev. 19:8. What has been done for the Lord Jesus will never lose its preciousness in His sight!

May the thought of this manifestation at the judgment seat of Christ speak to our hearts and consciences now, that we, like the beloved apostle Paul, who full of the enjoyment of the love of Christ, sought to live his life in view of "that day".

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