What is the ‘Bema’ Seat of Christ?
The Judgement Seat of Christ
The ‘Bema’ seat of Christ occurs at the time immediately following the translation of the Church (“Rapture”–See 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The place of the Bema seat of Christ is placed in the sphere of the heavenlies.
There are two primary passages for interpreting the Judgement Seat of Christ: Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10. The two Greek terms translated Judgement Seat in these passages are: bemati and bematos. In THAYER’S GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, we find the following definition for Bema: (1) a step, pace, (2) a raised place mounted by steps; a platform, tribune: used of the official seat of a judge (see Matthew 27:19; John 19:13; Acts 18:12,16); of the Judgement Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10).
In the two passages (Romans 14 and 2 Corinthians 5) the term “judgement seat” Is used of the Divine tribunal before which all believers are hereafter to stand. In Romans 14:10, it is called “The judgement-seat of Christ,” A.V. (R.V., “of God”), according to the most authentic manuscripts. The same tribunal is called “the judgement-seat of Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:10, to whom the Father has given all judgement (see John 5:22,27). At this ‘bema’ believers are to be made manifest, that each may “receive the things done in (or through) the body,” according to what he has done, “whether it be good or bad.” There they will receive rewards for their faithfulness to the Lord. For all that has been contrary in their lives to His will they will suffer loss of rewards (1 Corinthians 3:15). (VINE’S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS)
From 2 Corinthians 5:10, John 5:22 and Romans 14:10, we are told that the judge at the ‘Bema’ seat of Christ is Christ Himself. One day all the dead will be raised to stand before Christ (the saved through the rapture to the ‘Bema’ Judgment, and the unsaved through the final resurrection to the Great White Throne Judgment (see John 5:29; Romans 14:10-12; Revelation 20:11-151).
The Judgement of Believers
Only those who are born again believers will stand before the ‘Bema’ seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:1-19). The purpose of the ‘Bema’ seat is to make a public manifestation of the essential character and motives of the individual Christian. The believer’s works are brought into judgment, called “the things done in his body” (2 Corinthians 5:10), in order that it may be determined whether they are good or bad. This judgment is not to determine what is ethically good or evil, but rather that which is acceptable and that which is worthless/unprofitable to the work of Christ.
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). While it is possible to hide the true quality of one’s service for Christ in this life, there will be a tie of reckoning for the Christian. There is coming a time when all will be openly displayed for what one’s true motives were.
Results of Christ’s Judgement
The results of the judgment are two-fold: (1) a reward received or (2) a reward lost. If a man’s work remains undamaged by the fire, accordingly, he receives rewards (Greek misthos) … If a man’s work does not endure, and is consumed in the fire, then he shall “suffer loss.” Everything he has devoted himself to in this life (those things done in his own strength and for his own glory) shall be burnt up suddenly. “But he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). It is important to notice that such a man does not suffer the loss of his salvation, but the loss of reward. The stress is not on a man’s relationship to Christ, but upon service to Christ. (Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume II, pp. 421-422.)