Monday, December 10, 2012

Payday is Coming: What Will Judge Jesus be Looking For? (Part 2)

    Jason and Kyle both were salesmen for the ABC company and both appeared to do acceptable work. One day both were called in to the boss’ office. Kyle went in first and was told that he was being given a raise and a promotion, but no reason was given for this. Jason went in next and was fired with no explanation given. He was just told to clean out his desk and leave immediately. Needless to say, a great deal of frustration and confusion will surround this company and its employees if this is the way it operates. Employees of the ABC company will live in fear. No one likes to be clueless on what is expected of them, especially when so much rides on how well one produces.
    Fortunately, the criteria for our evaluation at the Judgment Seat (bema) of the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly given to us. In the last study we observed the instruction of the Apostle Paul on the matter in the key passage found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-4:5. The first criterion that he gave was “how closely did our lives align with God’s truth”? As we served Him and lived for Him, did we do so according to the commands, principles and guidelines found in the Scriptures. This is a clear, objective standard for us. As he told Timothy, we will not receive the prize unless we play according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5). In this study, we will now look at the other two criteria that Judge Jesus will use as He evaluates the lives of His servants. 


    One of several important designations for believers in the New Testament is that of a “steward”. This word is used by Paul as he describes what will take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ. 

“Let a man regard us in this matter, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” (1 Cor. 4:1-2)

    A steward is one to whom the master has given many things. The steward is to diligently work with these things that belong to his master. The issue that is most important is that the steward must be faithful. And because all things have been given to the steward, he is held accountable for how faithful he has been in the use of those things. Paul further reminded the Christians at Corinth: 

“For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

    Each believer has been given much by the Lord, although we are all so very different from one another. (Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25:15 that He does deal differently with His servants). But all of us have been given natural abilities and spiritual gifts. Each has been given a level of intelligence and a level of financial resources. All believers have been given time and opportunities as well as a role in our families and churches. All that we have has been given to us by the Lord and He expects us to be faithful in using these things to serve Him and bring honor to Him. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be the place where our individual stewardship is evaluated.

    Unfortunately, we often compare ourselves with others and see ourselves as inferior to other believers. We all too often assume that those prominent Christians (such as, pastors of megachurches or those who are on television or write many books or those who sing wonderful solos at church) will be the ones who receive great reward and have prominence in Messiah’s kingdom. But that may not be case at all. The great issue to the Lord Jesus is that of faithfulness. We are called upon TO BE FAITHFUL, NOT TO BE FAMOUS! The Lord Jesus will evaluate us on what He has given to us, not what He has given to someone else. This should be a great encouragement to us. Fellow believers, do not compare yourself with others because Judge Jesus will not be doing that. The issue is an individual one. Were you and I faithful to all that He has given to us.


    The Lord is always interested in our heart attitudes and He is in this matter as well. Our motive should be the glory of God and the approval of God. It would seem that every now and then we should ask ourselves the question “why am I doing what I am doing?” Our motivations are important even though it is sometimes difficult for us to fully discern our motives. Again, the Apostle Paul mentioned this matter to the believers at Corinth. 

“I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor. 4:4-5)

    It would appear that periodically we ought to try and identify “why” we are doing and living the way we are.

    Paul was a faithful, devoted follower of Jesus and in his life he observed others who were not so pure. He mentions several wrong motives that could be spotted in others. He noted that some served the Lord because it was profitable to do so. They merchandised the gospel (2 Cor. 2:17). They did what they did because of the financial rewards that they got. He also observed believers who served out of personal pride (Phil. 1:15-17). They were building a kingdom, but it was their own and not Christ’s. He makes it clear that it is possible for one to serve Christ because it brings with it positions of prominence or power. So why do we want to be a lead singer in the worship service; or chair a committee; or be an elder or deacon; or have a lead part in the Christmas pageant or Easter cantata? Since Judge Jesus will be taking a look at our motives, we should probably to that as well. 

    While all of us as God’s children are equally loved by Him, He will be just and righteous in the manner in which He will deal with His children. He will evaluate us as individual and will not compare us with others. His evaluation will not be arbitrary, (depending on He feels at the moment!) but will be objective. If reward is given or if reward is withdrawn, it will be clear to all as to the reasons why. This can be the greatest day for each of us stewards of Christ. 

    In our next study on the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will take a look at what the New Testament reveals will be the rewards that are given to believers who have met the criteria of the Lord Jesus.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Payday is Coming: What Will Judge Jesus Be Looking For?

Bill was hired on a trial basis by the Food World grocery store to stock shelves. The supervisor showed him the area where the pallets of goods were located and then promptly left, telling Bill that he would return in a few hours to see what he had accomplished and to decide if Bill would be hired permanently. If Bill was thinking at all at this moment, he would likely be frustrated and uneasy because he had no idea what Food World’s expectations were. How many pallets was he to unload? Where did things go? What did the computer codes mean?

No one would like to be put in such a situation where they are going to be evaluated against some unknown standard. And when it is something as important as the Judgment Seat of Christ, our knowledge of the criteria is even more significant. So our question is: “what will Judge Jesus be looking for at the Judgment Seat”? Unlike the supervisor at Food World, the Scriptures give to us the basic criteria for our future evaluation by Jesus Christ at His judgment seat. There are three primary criteria that the Scriptures give. This article will deal with the first one and the next article will deal with the other two.


The truth of the Word of God will be the objective standard that our lives will be evaluated by. The Scriptures give us all that we need to know to live well for the Lord Jesus and to serve Him. The following verses give us a needed reminder of this.

Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Because the Word of God gives us all that is necessary to honor Christ and live well for Him, this same Word will be used to evaluate how we lived our lives.

The Apostle Paul also states that we will not receive reward if we do not live according to the rules that God has set up.

“And also if any one competes as an athelete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)

In his classic discussion on the Judgment Seat of Christ in 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul uses the helpful picture of building a structure. He notes that all of us as believers are building. It is quite important to observe that the question is not “am I building?” The question for each of us is “in light of the fact that I am building, what kind of building materials am I using?”

In his illustration, he tells us that all believers are given the foundation on which to build. The foundation on which we build is the same. That foundation is the truth about Jesus Christ, His person and His work (1 Cor. 3:10-11). Our lives and service are built on our relationship with Christ. By faith, we have received God’s gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins. From the moment we are saved, we begin to build on this foundation.

Paul informs us that we have two types of building materials available as we build. The first are those materials which will not perish when touched by fire (gold, silver, valuable building stones), and second, those materials that are combustible (wood, hay straw). Again, we must remember that every day we are building. So, last week you and I built, and the dominant question is what kind of material we used last week.

What do these materials represent? The imperishable materials (gold, silver, valuable building stones) represent the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is found in the Scriptures. This discussion of the Judgment Seat found here in 1 Corinthians 3 and has been preceeded by a lengthy discussion of the importance of the wisdom of God. From 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul has been arguing for the critical role that God’s wisdom plays in people getting right with God and with its significance in living life. When we live and serve according to the standards, commands and guidelines of Scripture, we are building with these wonderful, permanent materials. On the other hand, the perishable materials represent those views, philosophies and ideas that are not part of God’s Word. Some suggestions will be given on what these things might look like.

Living according to the guiding principles and commands of Scripture is building with gold, silver and precious stones. For example, in our family relationships each of us have roles and responsibilities as set for by the Bible. When I, as a husband, love my wife and give her biblical leadership then that is one area that I am building with imperishable materials. As we guide our fiscal lives according to God’s principles on money and material things, we are building with these lasting materials. So, whether it is in my vocation, my responsibilities in the Church, my relationship with the unsaved, the way I budget my time, the decisions made related to recreation or a dozen other matters, we can be choosing to live by the appropriate principles and guidelines found in Scripture.

This, of course, leads to a fundamental issue of whether or not we are spending the needed time in studying the Scriptures to both understand and then apply the truths of God to the various areas of life. What we do or don’t do will determine the receiving of rewards, or not, at the Judgment Seat.

What might the perishable materials of wood, hay and straw represent in the lives of believers? These represent any alternatives to the revealed standards and principles of God in His Word. In the context of 1 Corinthians, in a very fundamental way, this represents the “wisdom of man.” Believers can and often do make decisions based on things other than the wisdom of God. In order to try and take this out of the realm of the abstract and to see what wood, hay and straw might look like today, several suggestions are given.

(1) EXPERIENCES. Believers will sometimes make decisions in life based on some circumstances or coincidence they have experienced; or some path is taken because of an alleged vision they saw or voice they heard. Others say they were “slain in the Spirit” and this experience determined choices made in numerous areas of life. But experiences, though real to a person, must be evaluated by the Scriptures. Some experiences come from God but others are generated by the human mind and yet others by Satan. The Scriptures alone can determine the authenticity of experience.

(2) TRADITION. Believers can program their lives by their religious traditions. But as we all know, the traditions of the Pharisees in the days of Christ, brought terrible consequences. Tradition might at times be helpful but it is the Word of God that evaluates tradition.

(3) PSYCHOLOGICAL IDEAS. Even pastors in their sermons can substitute current psychological ideas for biblical truth. For example, child raising can be done according to biblical principles or according to current trends in psychology; or time is spent digging back into a person’s childhood instead of focusing on the present and future (Phil. 3:13-14).

(4) DOCTRINAL ERROR. The greatest concern of the Apostles was the influx of false doctrine into the church. The distortion of biblical truth affects every area of life, and the Apostle John warned that embracing that which is error will bring about the loss of reward in the future. (2 John 7-8)

Building is going on daily in our lives. Whether we are building according to the Word, or on other things, will determine the gain or loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is no small matter. And it becomes obvious to the thinking person that understanding and applying the truth of God in life is a primary task of ours in the present.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Payday is Coming: Today Counts Forever

Recently many of us watched the Olympic games on television. When the winning Olympic athletes were interviewed, they often had great difficulty in describing their overwhelming joy at that moment. After years of faithfully training and working very hard, they had finally won their medal and the emotion of the moment left them with a limited vocabulary. The moment itself was overpowering and their lives would never be the same. They will always be Olympic winners. As I watched those winning athletes, I couldn’t help but think of a future time when we will be rewarded by the Lord Jesus, the King of Glory. The joy of those Olympic athletes will be far surpassed by the joy of believers who have faithfully served the Lord of Glory here and now. For faithful believers, it will undoubtedly be an incredibly emotional moment of great joy and immense satisfaction. To have the Lord Jesus say, “you did a good job and I am so very pleased with you” will make all of the hard work and faithfulness in tough times be worth it all. And, like the Olympic athletes, this will have an impact on life from that moment on.

Today does count forever. What we do now for Christ will have a ripple effect throughout the coming kingdom of God. When the Apostle Paul was explaining to the believers at Corinth as to why he willing suffered so much for Christ and the gospel, he said: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Today does count forever and we too can part of the “eternal weight of glory.” We are continuing our series on the believer’s payday: the Judgment Seat of Christ. In this study there are two questions that we want to deal with.

The Scriptures indicate that it is at the return of Jesus that rewarding takes place. When a person dies, it is sometimes said that “he has gone to his reward.” While a believer will certainly be entering an indescribable place and seeing an awesome Person, technically this is not the time of rewarding. Jesus put it succinctly in Revelation 22:12: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” During His earthly ministry, He stated: “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.” (Matthew 16:27). In several of His parables (Luke 19; Matthew 25), He connected the rewarding of His servants with His return to earth.

Scripture tells us that rewarding is connected with His return. So when He returns at the Rapture for His Bride, the Church, that will be the time when church age saints are rewarded. This can also be seen in Revelation 19:8 where, just prior to the Second Coming to earth, the Bride is seen in heaven as rewarded. And on the basis of Matthew 16, we can also conclude that all other saints (from the Old Testament and the Tribulation) will be rewarded at the Second Coming event.

It is sometimes taught that after the Judgment Seat, all believers will then be the same. This is largely based on Revelation 4. In Revelation 4:4-10, the 24 elders cast their crowns before the throne of God, and this has led some to conclude that after this act of worship that rewards play no part in future activities, rankings or conditions. But that is probably not how we should understand Revelation 4. That particular interpretation simply does not align well with numerous other scriptures. It is true that the rewarded elders are worshipping the Lord by acknowledging that their rewards are ultimately due to His grace. And the fact that they have crowns enables them to have a greater capacity in their worship of the Lord.

However, when we look at Jesus’ teaching in Luke 19:11-27 and Matthew 25:14-22, as well as Paul’s powerful message in 2 Timothy 2:5-11, it becomes quite evident that rewards last for a very long time. At a minimum they will have consequences throughout the 1,000 year reign of King Jesus. (The very real possibility of reigning with Jesus will be dealt with in a future study.)

In the Millennial (Messianic) Kingdom. In this kingdom, the Lord Jesus will rule for one thousand years (Rev. 20:1-10) over Israel and all the nations of the earth (Psalm 2:1-9; Isaiah 9:6-7, 11; Jer. 23:5-8; 33:20-26). Absent from this kingdom will be Satan and his forces as well as the curse placed on the earth by God in Genesis 3. This kingdom will be characterized by righteousness, joy, peace, prosperity and health. There has never been a time like this on earth since Eden, and for those who have been faithful in this present life there will be the privileged opportunity to co-rule with King Jesus. Our investment (“laying up treasures”) right now will pay amazing dividends for one thousand years.

In the Eternal Kingdom. There is a second part to the future kingdom of God and that is the eternal phase when ruling authority is handed to the Father by Christ after His messianic reign (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). After all judgments have taken place, including that of Satan, unbelievers and the old heavens and earth, then this new final eternal phase will begin. It is likely that this will be on the new earth. But the question for us in this study is “do rewards have consequences in the eternal phase of the kingdom of God?” There is evidence that rewards impact life in the eternal kingdom phase. For example, man will have a place a rulership in this eternal kingdom. Revelation 21:24 says that, “and the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it.” In the eternal phase of the kingdom of God, there are nations and there are kings. This means that there are some people who are going to hold honored places on the earth during the eternal kingdom. This strongly suggests that the rewards given to believers do have eternal consequences. Again, the Apostle Paul speaks of the “eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The writer of Hebrews seems to support the eternalness of rewards when he states that the present heavens and earth will be “shaken” while the kingdom we will receive will not be “shaken” (Hebrews 12:25-29). The “shaking” refers to the destruction of the old earth which is in contrast to the kingdom we will be part of which will not be destroyed. This statement comes after numerous exhortations to remain faithful and endure because of the rewards that are coming when Jesus Messiah comes; strongly implying that the rewards and the kingdom are eternal.

While it is impossible to be dogmatic on the matter of the eternalness of rewards, the evidence points in that direction. But even it could be shown that rewards last for “just” one thousand years, how wise is the believer to live presently with that time in mind. How incredibly wonderful to have a unique relationship and a wonderful responsibility alongside the King, even if it is “only” for a thousand years. If it is eternity that is in view, then wisdom calls us with an even louder voice: “TODAY COUNTS FOREVER”. And Jesus’ exhortation to “lay up treasure” may be far more significant than is usually thought.

When we do stand before the judgment seat, what will King/Judge Jesus be looking for? How will we be evaluated? On what basis will rewards be given or not given? That will be the subject of our next study on the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Payday is Coming: Cultivating a Two-Word View

Having a “two-world” view is one of those essential factors in our growth in grace. A “two-world” view is simply having a focus on the world to come while living well in this present world. This is the way the Apostles lived and what they taught. However, it is this loss or diminishing of a two-world view in the lives of many of God’s people today which has significantly contributed to present spiritual weakness and worldliness. It is not that so many believers today are necessarily involved in gross wickedness, but that, in the words of the Savior, they are chained by the worries, riches and pleasures of this present world. Their focus is wrong.

When the writer of the book of Hebrews compiled his short list of super saints, it is apparent that all of them had this two world view. He said that these folks were people who saw themselves as “strangers”, “exiles”, “aliens” in this world because they understood that the best was yet to come. God Himself was so pleased with their two-world approach to life that He was, according to the author, “not ashamed to be called their God” and that “He has prepared a city for them.” All of them had an eye on the world to come which enabled them to live with a high level of excellence in this present world. Few of us would want to suggest that these people lived poorly or irrelevantly.

Possessing this two-world view begins with an unobstructed view of the world to come; a view which the Scriptures provide for us. But having this view is more than holding to a theological position. Its presence in our lives is evidenced when there is a heightened desire of seeing the Lord Jesus Himself (“loving His appearing”); when there is a confident but sober anticipation of that time when we shall appear before the Lord Jesus and give an account of our lives; and when there is an increasing desire to participate and enjoy the future, forever kingdom of God.

Believers with a maturing two-world view have a different perspective on living in this present world. They prioritize life differently, make better choices as they face trials, problems and other issues; and they seem to have a greater capacity to say “no” to questionable and sinful things. Too many of God’s people today are living with a one-world view and focusing on this life. Some of this comes about because of the one world emphasis in many too many pulpits and Bible studies. When there is a one world focus, the reality is that believers lose out on both worlds. In his wonderful book “Mere Christianity”, C. S. Lewis once observed the importance of having a two-world view.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for this present world were those those who thought most of the next … It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this world. Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in”; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

The Lord Jesus often spoke about having an eye on the world to come; that time when He restores and reconciles all that was lost in the Garden of Eden. One of those important subjects in the coming world is the matter of the rewarding of believers at the “judgment seat of Christ.” This is an event which appears to have a ripple effect into eternity. In His “Sermon on the Mount”, He exhorted people to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”, and His very last words recorded in Scripture were: “Behold I come quickly and my reward is with Me to render to every man according to what he has done.” The Lord Jesus, and later on His apostles, saw that this future rewarding of His people was an important motivation for living well here and now and our present growth in grace. This great event along with those truths about the coming rapture of the church, the tribulation period and the marvelous kingdom of Jesus Messiah (the millennial reign) are designed to change the way we think and live right now.

In several upcoming studies we will be probing into the details of this event of the Judgment Seat of Christ, our coming payday. Since we, as followers of Jesus Christ, will all be participants in this event, we probably would do well to be informed about this time; a time which could be our greatest moment or (to use the words of the Apostle John) a time of unprecedented shame.