Let's read together from the word of God, from 2 Corinthians chapter 5 - the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians and chapter 5 and verse 10 - and Paul writes: "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 worthless". Romans, the book of Romans and chapter 14, Romans chapter 14 and verse 10, and Paul again says: "But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ". And thirdly, and finally, 1 Corinthians - which is our main reading - 1 Corinthians chapter 3 and verse 9: "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 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".
We're going to take this as our main passage this morning, the subject that I want to speak to you on this morning is one that has been upon my heart - and one that, in fact, someone asked me, perhaps, could I maybe speak upon it at some occasion. The last Sunday evening I preached was on 'The Great White Throne Judgement', but this morning I want to preach on 'The Judgement Seat Of Christ' - under the title 'Any Crowns In Heaven?'. I do have the cold - in fact I think I've got a touch of the flu! - so if I collapse, don't worry, I'm not dead! I can be resuscitated, and the Pastor's ready to come and jump in here in my place.
This passage of scripture, and the subject 'The Judgement Seat Of Christ', is one that, perhaps, we don't hear too much about today. The question [that] often arises in our minds is: 'What is the judgement seat of Christ? What is it like? Is it like the judgement that we were thinking about a couple of weeks ago, or is it different?'. Some people have in their minds an idea of the judgement seat of Christ as being like a Sunday School prize giving, when you get the prize for your attendance to church, or your faithfulness in various areas of your Christian life. Is it like that? Or is the judgement seat of Christ not simply a prize giving ceremony, but is it a fearful testing of the child of God? I believe, deep down in my heart today, that we live in a Christian age in our society, here in Northern Ireland, that is one that has very little commitment in it. People today, whether it be in church or outside of church, do not want to commit themselves to anything. They may well do things, they may well attend, but to actually sign their name somewhere, and commit themselves, and say that they're going to do something - give their word - well, it's hard to get that today. It's hard to get committed Christians, full-stop, perhaps. And I wonder, this morning, could that be because we have no vision of the judgement seat of Christ - or perhaps if we do have one, we have a distorted one.
I want us this morning, to look at the word of God, and to look at these scriptures together, to see what the Bible has to say about the judgement seat of Christ. Now I apologise if there was a little confusion the last time I preached, on who would be before this judgement seat - the Great White Throne. It will only be unbelievers, those who are outside of Christ, those who are not born-again - it will only be they, who stand before the Great White Throne of God's judgement. You need have no fear, as a child of God, about that judgement. But who then will stand before this judgement seat - the judgement seat of Christ. Well, the word of God clearly teaches, and we've read together from 2 Corinthians 5 verse 10 that 'we', it says, 'shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ'. Paul says 'we' - who was Paul writing to? Well, Paul was writing to the Church in Corinth, and he uses this collective term, 'we as Christians, we as the believers, the saints in Corinth, we one day will stand before the judgment seat of Christ'. So we can be sure of the subjects of this judgement. The subjects of the judgement seat of Christ will be believers.
You might say to me, 'David, how can believers be judged? What are we judged on? Are we judged upon whether we're worthy to get into heaven? Are we judged - are our good works and our bad works weighed together on a supernatural balance to let us through the gates, the pearly gates of glory?' Well, the Bible does not teach that. You see, the judgement seat of Christ is not a judgement concerning our salvation, it doesn't determine whether you get into heaven or whether you're banished to hell, but the judgement seat of Christ is about the works of believers. It's not about our sin, it's not a judgement where your life will be set before you - remember how we thought about it, and every deed that you have done, every wrong deed, every wrong word, every wrong thought will be brought to your consciousness, you would relive everything that you did - that is not the judgement seat of Christ. You, as a born-again believer here this morning, will never face such a future - praise God! So what is it? It's a judgement of your works.
What is the time of this judgement? Well, Paul says 'we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ'. If you turn to 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 5, you'll see that Paul says: "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God". 'Then', it is something that is in the future, it is something that is still to happen. So all of us here who are born-again, who are Christians, it is in the future for us all - for the church of Jesus Christ, whether in heaven, whether the church militant upon the earth, the whole church of Jesus Christ still has to face this final judgement. It will take place when the church of Jesus Christ is taken out of the earth, and they are translated from this scene of time to glory, as the bride of Christ, to the marriage supper of the Lamb - but before all of that, as they are taken to glory through the air, as the Lord comes to the air for them - their judgement will take place there, straight after the church of Jesus Christ is evacuated from planet Earth. That's the timescale.
What about the place? The place is the judgement seat of Christ, and the Greek word for it is 'bema'. And it simply means this: if you were a Greek athlete and you were competing in the Olympics or athletics, you would run for a prize. And once you ran the race - and say you came first, second or third - there would be a large platform that would be raised with a seat upon it, and upon that seat there would be a man called an 'umpire'. The Greek word for that seat was 'bema'. It was a judicial seat, whereby the umpire declared who won the race, who got gold, silver or bronze, or who got nothing. And the picture that we have before us of the judgement seat of Christ, the bema, is this one of a race and of the winners receiving something from the umpire upon his judgement seat. What they usually handed out were laurel wreaths, that were placed upon their heads for first, second and third prize. We know that when we read the word of God and the epistles, don't we, that Paul often likens the Christian life, the Christian walk, [to] a race, [to] an athlete, who gives everything, who pours all his energy, all his zeal, everything that he has, all his life, all his money, all his time into this race - so that he may run to win a prize - and at the end of the race he will face the judgement.
The first thing I want us to notice together, this morning, about the bema is: the bema's basis for judgement. The bema's basis for judgement - we find it in chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians, and verse 12: "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it". I've already said that believers - listen this morning! - you have no fear of being judged, one day, for your sin. Why? Because the judgement upon sin for believers has already taken place! I want you to get this today: you were the subjects of that judgement, the time of that judgement was AD30, the place of that judgement was a hill called Golgotha, Calvary - and the basis for that judgement, listen: was a finished work, where every believer had his sins judged upon the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah, this morning, that we will never, ever face a judgement for our sins! Never will the hidden sins of our life, those things that we couldn't tell the nearest and dearest to us - the skeletons in our cupboard - those things, if we're saved today, are under the blood of Christ. Oh what peace, my sin - oh the bliss of this glorious thought - my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul! Christian, your sins have already been judged. You're justified before God, the slate has been wiped clean, He will never judge you again.
But you see the danger is that we fail to realise that as Christians, one day, we will not be judged with regard to our sins, but we will be judged with regard to our works. Judgement, not for salvation, but judgement for reward, or judgement for loss. Now often there can be confusion about this in our minds - there's a tension, almost, between grace and works. That we have in our heads that: 'By grace are ye saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it's a gift', you can't work for it, you can't buy it. That's true, but James also says that: 'Faith without works is dead'. You see, you can't work for your salvation, but you work from salvation, you work out your salvation and because you have the life of God in you - you live the life of God through your daily works. Sometimes we can become (and I'd better watch what I say here!) too 'Calvinistic' - that we think that we can do nothing in our lives to please God, that we can do nothing in our lives that will reward us, that God will look upon, and smile upon it, and one day will present us with a reward. And if you maybe don't like what I'm saying here this morning, well, listen to Calvin: 'There is no inconsistency in saying that God rewards good works, provided we understand that nevertheless men obtain eternal life gratuitously'.
We're not talking about salvation this morning! You can't work for it! And the life that you have in you, that will make you do good works for the Lord Jesus, it hasn't been put there by you, it's been but there by God - therefore salvation is of the Lord. But if you do do good works, you will be rewarded for it. Make no mistake about it. Oh to think, Christian today - think of this just for a moment - that our life, your seven day week, Sunday to Saturday, every hour, every minute, of every day of our life is putting [together], word by word, the sentence that Christ will speak about ourselves on that day of judgement. Think of that! Every single day of our lives we are manufacturing, as servants, our own adjudication at the judgement seat of Christ. Oh, that ought to make us live carefully, that ought to make us redeem the time - but does it? Have we lost sight of the judgement seat of Christ? That what Christ will declare about us on that day, we are determining by the way that we live here and now!
Let's clear it up: in the past God dealt with us as sinners, in the present God deals with us as sons, but in the future God will judge and deal with us as servants and as stewards. What does it say that the basis for judgement will be? Well, we've seen, look at verse 12: '...our works...'. And our works can be categorised, really, into two categories, not six but two: 'Gold, silver, precious stones', that's one category, 'Wood, hay and stubble'. Now, the smallest child here this morning - if I put gold, silver and precious stones there and wood, hay and stubble there - they would be able, with the human eye to tell the difference. But, you see, the word of God says that this, in eternity future, must be tested by fire. You might say: 'David, well why does God need to test it by fire? If it's clearly different - wood, hay and stubble, and precious stones, gold and silver?'. This is the point that Paul is making, the Holy Spirit is making this point: that in the eyes of men, in the eyes of your Pastor, in the eyes of a church or a community the things that you do, the works of your flesh - they may look genuine, but one day God will have to test them by fire. And we know about gold, silver and precious jewels, what happens when you put them in the fire, through a furnace? They resist the fire. But wood, hay and stubble, what happens? They are consumed by the fire.
My friends if you had a 'mamby, pamby, airy, fairy' picture of the judgement seat of Christ in your mind today, like a Sunday School prize giving - I hope that I've changed your mind. Because this day will be a fearful testing when all our works - all of our works - will be tested, judged by fire.
'Wood, hay and stubble', I've often heard referred to by Christians or preachers as being 'rubbish'. Well, any farmer here will know that wood, hay and stubble is not rubbish. Wood can be used to build a house, or a barn, or a boat, hay can be used to feed - maybe somebody can tell me later what stubble is used for! But I'm sure it's used for something! But the point is this - listen, I want you to grasp this - wood, hay and stubble can only be used down here. They are things of the earth, that's why farmers use them, they are things of this world, the soil. But the jewels that Paul is speaking about picture the book of the Revelation, where heaven is described as the streets paved with gold and all the jewels, and what Paul is saying here is: the things that count are the things, the treasures, you build for up there.
Could it be that because so many Christians have become so materialistic, so career-conscious, that they have lost the vision of the judgement seat of Christ? Chopin, the great musician, in one of his first concerts, his concert was full of mistakes. But after he played his concerto the whole audience rose to their feet, but there was one old man sitting in the corner in the front seat, and he sat where he was, he didn't move. That old person was Verdi, his master and his trainer - why? Why did he not rise? When the whole of the building rose and stood to their feet in adoration and praise, he remained sitting down - why? Because he knew the mistakes that were there.
Listen, friends this morning, while men may applaud what you do - God sees the mistakes. The Master sees them! He sees the things that you do in the flesh and not in the spirit. He sees - He can see into the future - the things that perhaps you may even do today, that when the fire of God and Christ's eyes that were like flames of fire, light upon them they will go up in smoke.
That is the bema's basis for judgement. But I want us secondly, and finally - before I conk out! - to look at the bema's bountiful reward. The bema's bountiful reward and the bema's bad loss. If you look at the passage with me you see that in verse 10: "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 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". There is reward and there is loss! You're not home and dry when you're saved! Do you know what I hate people saying? That 'Salvation is all that matters'. Salvation matters a great deal, but it is certainly not all that matters. Salvation is only the door that enters into the great life that God in Christ has for you - it's only the start! You start on a clean slate. You start, and the prospect is that you're running for the finishing line, you're running, competing for the prize - and if you get it you'll get rewards, but if you don't you'll experience loss. Don't worry about it now - you'll stay on the track, you'll never go to hell, if your soul is washed with the blood of Christ you'll be in heaven, you'll be saved - but will your works count?
What are the rewards that the Bible talks about at the judgement seat of Christ? Well, I had an overhead - but the photocopier ate it! So if you want a sheet, [where] I have outlined all the crowns that the Lord will give on the day of judgement, ask me afterwards and I'll be very glad to give you one. Let's look at them for a few moments this morning, the first is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, 1 Corinthians chapter 9 and verse 25, and Paul says: "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible". What is he talking about? He's talking about this: an athlete trains, an athlete disciplines himself, he doesn't have a fish supper every night, he goes running every day, he trains, he disciplines himself, he masters himself, he controls his body and he doesn't give into the temptation of lying-in in the morning, or missing a training session - he goes for gold, and he does that for a corruptible crown, a crown that will fade away. Paul says we as Christians, we ought to compete, we ought to buffet our bodies, control our bodies, we ought to resist temptation, we ought to have the victory in Christ, and if we do it Paul says, we will receive at the day of judgement an incorruptible crown - or the victor's crown. That is crown number one - the incorruptible crown, the victor's crown.
If you turn to 2 Thessalonians, or sorry 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, we see the second crown - verse 19, Paul says again: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?". The crown of our rejoicing, the crown - he is rejoicing at the fact that some of these souls in Thessalonica will be there at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ - why? Because he led them to Jesus Christ. This is a crown of rejoicing, or the soul winner's crown.
Crown number one is the victor's crown, those who resist temptation. Crown number two, the soul winner's crown. Crown number three, 2 Timothy, 2 Timothy 4 verse 8: "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing". This is the third crown, the crown of righteousness, for those who love the Lord's return. It's not for those who live their life away everyday, 'As it was in the day of Noah so it shall be at the coming of the Son of Man', when everybody's living, eating, drinking, sleeping as if the Lord will never return again, as if the Lord's judgement will never come - but those who look, those who wait, those who are watching, those who meditate upon it, those who study the Lord's return, will receive a special crown for doing so.
The fourth crown is found in 1 Peter - I'm sorry for going through so many references, but there's so much here that I just want [you] to familarise yourself with them - 1 Peter chapter 5 and verses 2 to 4: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away". The fourth crown is the crown of glory, it is a crown for shepherds, those elders who look after the flock of God.
The final crown is Revelation 2 and verse 10: "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life". The crown of life is the martyr's crown, the martyr's crown. Those who suffer for Christ, those across the world - and Andrew could tell us more about it - who suffer, some of them dying for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
My friend, quickly I want to say this to you, listen: can one who never has victory over temptation, can one who falls at every sin that comes along their way, can one like that - a Christian who never has victory in his life - can that person receive the victor's crown? Can one who never led a soul to Christ, can one who never plucked a brand from the burning, who never saved a soul from hell, can one like that receive the crown of rejoicing, the soul winner's crown? Can one who never thinks about the Lord's return and only lives for down here, and never talks about it, never enthuses about it, never looks for His return - every day looking out the window and thinking 'Lord, perhaps today?' - can one like that receive the crown of righteousness? Can the shepherds who never feed the flock, who never feed them the Word of God, who never tend [them] but beat them, who never care for them, can a shepherd like that receive the crown of glory? Can one who never suffers for Jesus Christ receive a reward like unto the crown of life in heaven? My friend, I hope that the Holy Spirit is bringing to you now: 'Will there be any crowns for you in heaven?'. After salvation this must be one of the most important questions: are there any crowns for you in heaven? Or will you suffer loss, as it says in verse 15, you will suffer loss but you yourself will be saved, you'll be saved alright but it says 'yet so as by fire'. Do you know what one translation puts that like? 'Yet so as by fire', like this: that we as Christians have run down the corridors of humanity with the flames licking at our heels. Imagine standing before the judgement seat of Christ and receiving nothing! Just to be saved, just to get out by the skin of your teeth!
Ruth and Boaz had a beautiful relationship together, and within that beautiful book there is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to His people. And do you remember that Ruth, after her husband was killed in war and her mother-in-law's husband was also killed, that she decided that she would go back to Naomi's land - leave her own people, leave her own family - and go and help Naomi and serve her, and out in the field, remember, she met this man Boaz. But on one occasion Boaz looked upon her in love, for what she had done for Naomi - leaving everything and coming to her - and he said this to her: "The Lord recompense thy work and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust". Christian this morning, will a full recompense be given to you? Will a full reward be given to you for all that you have done for Christ?
In the Encyclopaedia Britannica there's a story told about an old king - I can't remember which king he was - but his crown had a very priceless, special feather in it. It was a beautiful, colourful, rare feather of a bird of paradise - and to get that feather, the feather had to be plucked alive from the bird, otherwise it would lose its lustre and its appearance. The problem about it was that this bird of paradise lived in the habitat of tigers. To get that one feather five men died. Five men died to get a feather for a corruptible crown! Christian friend today, what ought we to do to receive a heavenly, incorruptible crown that will never fade away? I hope that the Holy Spirit has spoken to you this morning, and I want to leave you with this thought: picture yourself right now - if you want to close your eyes and try to imagine it, do so - standing before the judgement seat of Christ, the bema, and Christ's holiness, Christ's rays from His eyes of holiness penetrating your whole being, looking and scouring and surveying across your life, all that you have done for Him and in His name - and you stand before Him and all you can see is a cloud of smoke.
'He would have me rich,
But I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
And memory will run like a haunted thing,
Down the years that I cannot retrace,
And my penitent heart will nigh break,
With tears that I cannot shed,
And I'll cover my face with my empty hands,
And I'll bow my uncrowned head'.
My Christian friend, this morning, by and by, when you look on His face, will you wish that you had given Him more?
Our Father in heaven, we thank Thee this morning, for what Thou hast done for us. But we have to ask ourselves today what we have done for Thee. We realise afresh today, that only what is done for Christ will last, and we pray that today, and from today on, we would seek to build up treasures in heaven - and we know that one day, when we receive those rewards, that they will be through Thy grace and through Thy power, and we will take them from off our heads and we will cast them at His feet - for He alone is worthy of praise. And we thank Thee, our Father, as we come to this table for the first judgement of our sin upon Him, and we pray now that You'll bless us as we mingle around Calvary. In Jesus name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Portadown Baptist Church in Portadown, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "How Many Crowns In Heaven?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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