The Judgment of Christians as to Degrees of Merit
Before the Millennium.
OUR subject is the Judgment Seat of Christ, or the Bema. That is a very different thing from the Judgment of the Great White Throne. One is coming in contact, every now and again with true believers, who confound the one with the other. They are, however, two very distinct things. The judgment of the Great White Throne does not take place until after the Millennium, and the Judgment Seat of Christ, takes place before the Millennium. The Great White Throne Judgment is only for those who are spoken of as the "wicked dead;" but at the Judgment Seat of Christ, only the saints will appear. (2 Cor. 5: 9, 10) "Wherefore we labor," i.e., we endeavor—this is our great aim and object—"That whether present or absent"—i.e., whether the Lord is present or absent—"we may be accepted of him." The ambition of all who are filled with the power of the Spirit of God after being saved, is to be accepted of Him—or, rather, to be well-pleasing unto Jesus. Unless the Spirit of the Lord has given us as His children, this great ambition, we can be looking forward with nothing but discomfort to the Judgment Seat of Christ. Have we aspired to this? Is this our great ambition? Then we are looking forward to the Judgment Seat of Christ with earnest longing that, present or absent, we shall be well-pleasing unto Him.
Before we enter fully into a description of the Judgment Seat of Christ, or the Bema, let us consider fully the nature of this Judgment. Nobody but a true Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. There will be no question raised as to our sins; that question has been raised and settled before this. No one can enter those lists until they have received life. Judgment as to our natural condition is past before we can look forward to the Judgment Seat of Christ; the question as to our natural condition as sinners has been settled previous to our appearance before the Bema. There is the judgment of the Cross, and in the case of every true believer, our judgment, the death for sin. the doom pronounced upon us as to our natural condition—the sentence has been executed; we have been put to death in the person of the substitute on the Cross of Calvary. It is a grand thing to know that; to have our hearts free from all fear about that. When this question is settled and we know it, then begins our life which leads upward to the Bema.
Most of us, believe that the Rapture of the Saints, the being taken from this present evil world to meet our Lord in the air, is part of the great purpose of God and that Christ will then reward each believer according to his work. We do not differ on that point. The question of the Bema is a question of loss or reward; we shall all be saved, but we shall not all receive the same reward. The definition, the Judgment Seat of Christ, signifies the time when the Lord's Own Saints will be tested as to their works as the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is an individual thing. I believe that it takes place very soon after the Rapture. It is a question of our works whether He can call them good or bad. As a friend said to me recently speaking on this point, "I am going out to Chicago as a Judge—I am not however, going to judge men as malefactors; but I am going to see their works. Some will be excellent and they will be awarded prizes; others will be very good, these will receive certificates, and yet others will be inferior; we shall not be able to give these prizes, we cannot even give them certificates of merit."
At this Judgment Seat of Christ, the whole life, since we became true Christians; all our thoughts and words and actions; all our works whether profitable or unprofitable—shall pass before the eye of our Lord, and the Lord will pronounce whether these works have been in His estimation, good or bad. Many of us, perhaps, have been in a ferment of Christian works, and yet the Lord will have to pronounce the work very inferior, because there was so much with us of the flesh; and, so many who are first now shall be last then, and many who now consider themselves very poor, weak things, shall hear the "Well done, good and faithful servant."