The citizens of the heavenly kingdom may never find themselves on the New Year Honours list but they can be assured of a review that will take place when rewards will be given. Scripture promises that this review will be comprehensive, personal and perfect, for the Lord Jesus Christ will be the one who both reviews an individual’s work and bestows appropriate honours.
When Paul writes to the believers at Corinth, he informs them of his ambition. It is one that should be shared by every believer and will guide them in whatever activity they are engaged in.
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him (2 Corinthians 5:9)
The driving force behind this simple, but profound, ambition is then given;
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10)
The story is told of a missionary couple who were returning, by ship, to America after decades of exhausting service in central Africa. As they were about to disembark, they noticed that an enthusiastic crowd and brass band had gathered on the pier. Stepping off the boat was a well-known celebrity who, as the band started playing with full gusto, received the acclaim of the large throng. As the hard-working missionaries disembarked without any fanfare or greeting, one said to the other, “There has been no such welcome for us.” “Remember,” said the other, “we are not home yet!”
Although there might be very little recognition and reward for service to Christ whilst the believer is on earth this will be of no concern if we understand and assimilate the truth concerning the judgment seat of Christ.
The judgment seat of Christ is sometimes referred to as ‘the Bema’ as that is how the Greek word for judgement seat is transliterated. It is only believers who will appear there. That believers will not be judged for sin at the judgment seat of Christ is of great importance. Neither will salvation depend upon this review. Salvation is dependent on an individual’s faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every believer is secure in Christ, having been justified by God, knowing peace with Him and being assured that there will never be condemnation for them.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1)
Salvation is a gift that cannot be earned or deserved but when we get to the Bema we will be judged based on the life we lived after coming to Christ. In that day, some people will see their work burned up and accounted for nothing (1 Corinthians 3:15) whilst some will receive great rewards. It is profound and searching to remember that rewards will determine your capacity to enjoy eternity. It is only in this life that we can prepare for eternity.
Perhaps the missionary C.T. Studd said it best: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last".
You will have a personal review
For the believer there will be no evading the review of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our appearance is mandatory and certain. Although every believer might not currently be ambitious for the Lord, every believer is going to appear before the Lord. A realisation of this truth should stir up ambition to live pleasing to Him.
An emphasis in the letter to the Romans concerning this review is that I will give an account of myself.
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12)
Before the Lord Jesus I will not be called to explain how my fellow church members lived nor even how my wife lived. I will not be able to point to their Christ-honouring deeds of service and hope I will be rewarded for them. Equally, any lack of service on their part will not be held against me. The service of people I knew will not matter at my review. The matter in hand will be my service for Christ with the gifts, talents and resources that He gave me. We will all go past the judgment seat of Christ in single file.
You will have a comprehensive review
Every single aspect of my service will be laid bare before the omniscient Lord Jesus. Every motive for every work of service will be perfectly known by Him. The service that no-one else noticed will be fully known to Him. Perhaps the service I thought was great will be seen as being selfishly motivated but the small private acts will receive praise and honour!
It is not just that each believer will make an appearing there, but they will be made manifest. We will all have our lives laid completely open before the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘It is one thing to appear in a doctor's office and quite another thing to be X-rayed by him’ (W. MacDonald, Believer's Bible Commentary).
You will have a perfect review
At this review there will be no mistakes made. Many people who have had end-of-year reviews conducted by their managers feel that there were inconsistencies in the process and many positive works of service have gone unnoticed. There is no chance that this will happen at our review by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many people have had prestigious awards revoked based on new information or future conduct. One of the most high-profile knighthoods to be removed was that of banker Fred Goodwin. The former boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland was heavily criticised over his role in the bank's near collapse in 2008. His knighthood was stripped in January 2012.
The Bema will be a perfect review conducted by a perfect judge. There will be no need for a second appearance.
That the Bema will occur and what is in view there is without doubt. When it will occur is open to debate, but this author believes this event will take place after the Rapture but before the return of Jesus to set up His Millennial Kingdom. However, what is of essential importance is that every believer lives with this event in view. It will both motivate and encourage all aspects of service for Him who is worthy to be served.